Definition: Legislative Assembly

A legislative assembly, a.k.a. a legislature/ conseil du governement: is a body within a government made up of people who make, amend, and repeal laws. In a representative government, the legislative assembly is made up of people elected to represent the interests of their constituency/ electoral riding.



Government of Manitoba, poster, “Membres a l’Assemblée législative de l’Assiniboia/ Members of the Legislative Assembly of Assiniboia” (2010), showing as well the Clerk of the Assembly, President of the Provisional Government of Assiniboia, the Chief Justice, and Delegates to Ottawa. Click image to link to pdf.

The Legislative Assembly of Assiniboia:

  • was the first representative legislature in the Canadian West (formerly known as the Hudson’s Bay Company [HBC] ‘plantation’ of Rupert’s Land, which did not include the Pacific Slope/ Colony of British Columbia [1]),

On 2 February, Day 8 of the debates, the convention decided that a local legislature would control lands inside a circular territory, with Upper Fort Garry at the centre and a radius that extended to the U.S. border. On 8 February, Day 13, Louis Riel put forward a proposal to include elected representatives from all parishes of the settlement. The New Nation reported that he had urged:

[M]anifestly, we have to form a Government in order to secure the safety of life and property, and establish a feeling of security in men’s minds, and remove a sense of apprehension that it is not desirable should continue for a moment. How often have we not, on our side, expressed a fear as to the security of property and life. It is our duty to put an end to this, and it will be our glory as well as our duty.

The members of the convention responded with cheers. The process of negotiating the organization of a legislative assembly/ conseil du governement then began. On 9 February, Day 14 of the debates, the convention representatives debated a constitution developed by committee and passed a plan for a new Provisional Government. They agreed to establish a Representative Assembly [soon to be known as the Legislative Assembly of Assiniboia]. On 10 February,

“Enthusiasm reigned everywhere. In the town of Winnipeg brilliant fireworks were set off and bonfires lighted — guns fired and cheering and drinking universal,” [“Last Acts of the Convention,” New Nation (11 February 1870), 3.]

The Legislative Assembly of Assiniboia convened on 9 March for its first session. Two subsequent sessions saw it run to 24 June 1870.

  • had 28 members elected to its ranks [see, The People this site],
  • was made up primarily of Métis individuals — 21 of the 28 honourable members [See poster],

LAA cover

Click image to link to a brief and preliminary historical overview of the formation and accomplishments of the Legislative Assembly of Assiniboia devised for The Legislative Assembly of Assiniboia History Project, 2010


[1] A Legislative Assembly of Vancouver Island [LAVI] (a.k.a the “House of Assembly of Vancouver Island”) predated the Legislative Assembly of Assiniboia — and no doubt inspired efforts to create the latter. In 1856, after petitions were sent to the Colonial Office in London, protesting HBC proprietary rule, the LAVI was created as an elected body to represent voters in the Colony of Vancouver Island. Only a handful of colonists met the voting requirement, most of whom were tied to the HBC. In addition, at the time, the colony did not attain responsible government as it was headed by an appointed governor — an HBC chief factor. See “The Revolt and Its Lessons,” New Nation (14 January 1870), 1, column 4 and column 5.

I use the phrase ‘the Canadian West,’ a.k.a Western Canada, to designate a “region process … transcending time,” that does not include British Columbia. See Kathleen E. Braden, “Region, Semple, and Structuration,” Geographical Review 82, no. 3 (July 1992): 239, 242; see also Thomas Bender, “The Boundaries and Constituencies of History,” American Literary History 18, no. 2 (summer 2006): 268, who discusses the problematic nature of naming of regions to suit the agendas of nation states.

Richard I. Ruggles, “The West of Canada in 1763: Imagination and Reality,” Canadian Geographer 15, no. 4 (1971): 235, notes

“The ‘Canadian West’ is a recent entity in geographic terminology, since it did not begin to take definite form until into the nineteenth century, as agricultural, forestry, and mining populations began to diffuse through the area. Before this, the region was being explored and developed by fur-trading interests, at first British and French, and later, after 1763, by men from the new British colony of Canada. During this time there was no such region as Western Canada, but only a congeries of various ill-defined spaces which bore various names, such as le Pays d’en Haut, Rupert’s Land, the West Main, the North Main, Buffalo Country, and so on. But before any of this area began to have original names applied to it, it lay unknown to Europeans, and was as such, Europocentrically, non-existent therefore.”

At the time of the Resistance, the region that became British Columbia — the Pacific Slope — was separate from Rupert’s Land. As the title of Jean Barman, The West Beyond the West: A History of British Columbia, 3d. ed. (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2007), indicates, British Columbia still maintains an identity distinct from ‘The West.’ Nevertheless, there are writers, such as J. Arthur Lower, Western Canada: An Outline History (Vancouver: Douglas & McIntyre, 1983), 1, 2, who define Western Canada as including “the four provinces of Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia and the two territories, Yukon Territory and Northwest Territories, which lie mostly west of Hudson Bay.” Lower supplies a map.


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